Catcher- Chris Snyder just came back and is starting to produce. Ryan Doumit is still not the answer defensively and his hitting was not good either. Jason Jaramillo was sent down and was the best of the three thus far as Snyder was injured. Jaramillo continued his good hitting from Spring Training and defensively is a clear improvement over Doumit. It seemed like the team never traded Doumit and the three catchers either are good offensively or defensively but never both. Thus they all are missing a part of the game and it sets the team back.
First Base- Lyle Overbay has been a mixed bag. This “great defender” blew a play the second game of the season which cost the team a game. Overbay hit a nice home run against St. Louis, but hs hitting is not great. Much like Adam LaRoche, the lefty Overbay is known as a slow starter and this haunts the team. Overbay has not had a hit against lefties and in a power position, and he cost a good deal of money for not producing. He is going to have to do more, or else Steve Pearce may get some looks at first base.
Second Base- Neil Walker has been one of the best performing Pirates. He has picked up where he left off last season. The average is down and the strikeouts are up, however the power has improved and he is showing that he can defensively handle the second base positon. Walker will need to continue hitting like this, and he will have to hit better against lefties. He also struggled during the homestand and he will have to hit better for the hometown crowd.
Shortstop- Aki Iwamura gave up his position to Neil Walker, and if Ronny Cedeno is not careful, he could be next. Pedro Ciriaco had no reason to be sent down, especially since we have seen Cedeno and Josh Rodriguez get off to less than stellar starts. Cedeno usually starts off fast, and offensively he has not done much and he just is not getting the job done. Rodriguez has also had some good looks and he is just as bad. He was kept for his power, and I don’t see any power and I see a lack of patience at the plate. Cedeno has made a couple of spectacular plays at the shortstop position, however the routine plays such as grounders and turning the double play are just not up to snuff. Every time a grounder is hit his way, I hold my breath as it is an adventure. The shortstop position will need to produce more offensively and defensively will need to field their position.
Third base- Pedro Alvarez is expected to be the next big thing here in Pittsburgh. He is expected to be a power hitter and as a free swinger, is being compared to Adam Dunn. This season he has not met expectations. He is a notorious slow starter and in AAA last year hit in the .220’s this season. Alvarez will heat up when the weather gets hotter. His fielding is another story. His weight is in question and his fielding is inconsistent. He can make the plays half the time, and his arm strength is strong sometimes a little too strong. Steve Pearce has had looks at third and offensively hasn’t done much and defensively hasn’t done anything wrong, but hasn’t been truly tested. For all we know, he can do well but otherwise is could be another Delwyn Young experiment gone wrong.
Outfield- Jose Tabata has been the most complete player this season. He showed commitment to the team by putting on muscle and playing in the winter. He has already stolen seven bases and has added the home run to his game. He did well hitting leadoff but last night was bumped to the number two spot in the order. Despite his speed, he seems unsure in left field when he has to backpedal. Andrew McCutchen is known as a slow starter, however fans expected more from him after he tore the cover off of the ball in Spring Training. It seemed initially as though it would work as he hit two homers to start the season against the Cubs, but has since slumped. Clint Hurdle has tried to get him going again batting him leadoff but he struck out four times and was not a part of the offense. Furthermore McCutchen has as many steals for the team as I do right now- ZERO. McCutchen said at PirateFest that he wanted to have that “Ricky Henderson mentality” and know that the base was his when he would steal a base. He has looked like Lastings Milledge out there as the other day he was caught in a run-down. He like Alvarez will heat up soon. The platoon of Matt Diaz and Garrett Jones has not worked out well so far, with Jones hitting the lone homer. Diaz has been starting more as of late and he got two of the Pirates four hits on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. They need to produce now as that has been a part of the offense that has been missing. Finally we have not had a good look at John Bowker yet, but we know that he earned his spot with a solid Spring Training. He has been relegated to pinch hitting but has not done much with that. I say give him a start and see what happens.
Starters- The ace has been Kevin Correia and minus one inning on his start on Wednesday, he has pitched magnificantly. Correia gave up that homer to Fielder and was unable to field a bunt on Wednesday and that cost him, but he was able to pitch well in his previous starts. He will have to continue to pitch well as he is the ace, but I am unsure as to how long he can keep this up. Paul Maholm had his second great start on Thursday against the Brewers but took the loss giving up two runs in the first inning and was not helped by the offense or lack thereof. Paul has looked like Zach Duke at times as he has looked very hittable. He will have to be able to pitch inside more like he is trying to do. Ross Ohlendorf was the weakest looking of the starters, as he pitched ok at best in his first start against the Cubs and now is injured and Jeff Karstens has been forced back into the starting rotation when he will pitch tomorrow against the Cincinnati Reds. Charlie Morton has been nothing but stellar for the team, getting a complete game win last night. He changed his arm angle in Spring Training and the walks are finally down. I believe that before he was tipping his pitches, and now is getting a ton of groundballs due in large part to that newfound sinker. James McDonald was slated to be the team’s ace until his injury in Spring Training. I don’t have much on him, but now he should be able to pitch deeper in the games. He just needs to stop those innings where he labors. He seems to pitch 30-40 pitches in an inning and it effects how far he can go in his starts.
Bullpen- The plesant surprise has been Mike Crotta. That new sinker has proven to be vital and he already is a staple in the bullpen. Chris Resop had some trouble against the Chicago Cubs in the second game of the season, but since has looked pretty good and has picked up from where he left off last season. Joe Beimel is back off of the disabled list and we soon will find out what he has. He can be used in many different capacities and is the lone lefty in the bullpen after Garrett Olsen was designated for assignment. He was ok at best, but he was a good filler. Beimel is in his second tour of duty with the Pirates. Daniel McCutchen was called up during the season and he will now serve as the long reliever with Jeff Karstens now in the rotation. His ERA was a bit high last season and he will have to limit the mistakes. Jose Veras slow the pace of play when he pitches and earned the loss on Saturday against the Colorado Rockies when he gave up three runs in that infamous sixth inning. He has good stuff but needs to place his pitches in more adventageous positions so that he can take command of the batter. Evan Meek is finally coming back after the shoulder injury and before had a couple of bad outings in a row. Meek was sick it cost him dearly as his placement was off. He would leave pitches up to where hitters had no problem hitting him. When he came back Wednesday against the Brewers, his fastball topped at 92 when it usually tops out at 96-97 so the arm is not 100% yet. Lastly, Joel Hanrahan has done a solid job. He is not being called upon to close the game as much as the team only won one of six total games thru the first homestand. Hanrahan is the only closer in the NL Central who has not yet blown a save and he just seems to have extra competitiveness when he squares off against the hitter. Hanrahan is showing the Pirates that the made the right decision when it came to who would close the game.
You have worked blood, sweat and tears for this organization this Spring, and you should be commended for your efforts. Tomorrow is Friday, and thus your first game of the season. Let’s take a look at yourselves as a team.
Chris Snyder. You are injured and thus you cannot start for us, and we are upset. Now we have to trust Ryan Doumit who we have wanted out of here for the longest time. You are defensively capable but offensively incapable. When you come back you need to be consistent.
Ryan Doumit. Who made Jack Black our team’s starting catcher? Your offense can be good but your defense is TERRIBLE. Throwing out less than 10% of runners trying to steal base is an atrocity, and you do not belong in the Major Leagues, but here you are not only in a Pirate unform but starting. Charlie Sheen thinks that you are winning, but that does not amount for much anymore. In the words of Princess Leia, you are our only hope, because Jason Jaramillo as a starter is just as bad.
Neil Walker. The Pittsburgh Kid. Considering that you had to adapt to play yet another new position is tough enough but at times you showed Gold Glove capabilities. Bill Mazeroski a Pittsburgh legend helped you with mechanics and you tried to soak it in. It is important that you do not have a sophomore slump and the city is your for the taking, and this is your make it or break it season.
Ronny Cedeno. What can I say about a man who draws Sharpies and calls them mustaches? Well you can’t hit, you can’t field, what can you do right? You give us fits and there is no one better? Why don’t we have money for a real shortstop? Here, I am going to drop a baseball. Just like i thought, through the legs. Why are you still even here?
Pedro Alvarez. Your weight is an issue, but that was even before this season. You are outgrowing your position and thus the plays that separate a good third baseman from a great one and Alvarez is only good at best. You are our offense, you mash the ball but do not get frustrated by your average as that is the way you play and you should not change that.
Jose Tabata. You have packed on the muscles and we can tell. Your speed is a must as we expect you to run around the bases all of the time. You need to mash the homers and be a part of this offense. You are a part of the future, so failure is not an option.
Andrew McCutchen. We can tell that you want to win. You are the best CF in the majors but we have some concerns. Off the field, you are a scumbag, conceited and careless. You need to start driving people in and that is a glaring part of your game. You are the future and already are a good player, but it is time to become great, don’t you think?
Garrett Jones. You can mash righties on a good basis, but based on your rookie campaign, your power numbers are down. Please hit for a good average, and who knows, maybe you or this next guy could get traded.
Matt Diaz. Time to speed up and buy into the program. You can hit lefties, but some more power needs to be seen. Let’s find out if you can handle that right field wall, no one really has.
I am calling all of you out. Along with defense, you are the main issue on this team. Ray Searage can only do so much. He doesn’t pitch the baseball, he only gives you the advice. It is your job to listen to what he has to say and to pitch with confidence. The bullpen cannot win games all by themselves (I’m talking to you Ross, Charlie and Paul) and that means you actually have to suck it up and pitch. There are no more excuses.
Despite what I just said about the starters, no one is perfect. We have been losing for 18 seasons now and you will have to come in at tight spots or when the outcome of a game has already been decided. Regardless, pitch strong and attack the hitter. Joel, please prove to us that you can choose games. You failed to do that in Washington and were a mixed bag last season. Pitch with a purpose.
Josh Rodriguez. What are you doing here? Neal said that nothing about you was special and the fact of the matter is that your precious rule-5 status is keeping you here by a thread. Our infield stinks defensively and you do not help that at all. Even in Spring Training everyone from the top of the organization to the bottom said you weren’t anything and normally would be one of the first to be sent down. You better perform or you will be let go faster than we can say bobble head.
Steve Pearce. You made the Opening Day Roster for the first time so congratulations. You were persistant and eliminated the leg kick from your swing which will help you in the log run. Best of luck on sticking in the bigs this season.
Clint Hurdle. You need to stick to your guns. This team has a ton of personality and you can handle it, but do not lose the locker room. They are completely buying in to what you are saying and that means that you need to stay relevant to them. Practice what you preach. Make sure they run and let that know that losing is NOT an option.
Tomorrow is the big day men, Opening Day is upon us in the windy city. You have worked all off-season for this. No one expects us to contend, but why can’t we? These fans deserve a winner, and it’s time to go all in and get the job done.
This will highlight players that will be named as starters and then will highlight the bench players when they are named. I also will ask a question that hopefully will be answered this season.
Pedro “El Toro” Alvarez-
Strength: Power is a huge strength for Alvarez and he showed the Pirates what he could do with the bat and his power will have to be huge again this season.
Strength: In addition to power, Pedro was a very clutch hitter. When something needed to happen, Pedro wanted the bat in his hands and that walk-off home run against the Rockies perhaps best showcases this aspect of his game.
Weakness: Glove work is a huge problem with Pedro’s game. For every couple of great plays, there were the not so good plays and this part of his game will need to improve dramatically this season as the infield as a whole was a liability defensively and it cost the team plenty of games. Pedro has gained some weight and perhaps will shift to first base soon if he continues to add weight.
Weakness: The batting average is never going to be high with Pedro. Essentially Pedro is trying his best to become Adam Dunn, and while that will result in a ton of power, it will also result in a ton of strikeouts and they add up very fast. This is the way that Pedro plays and there is nothing the Pirates can do to change this.
Question: Will Pedro experience a sophomore slump? You see this happen to a lot of athletes across many different sports, and the Pirates cannot afford to let this happen to any of the second year players, especially Alvarez. He is too important to this offense for too many offensive slumps, although Alvarez will have a number of cold spells throughout the season. Alvarez may be the single most important player on this team, and this is definitely true offensively.
Strength: Early season play has always been key for Cedeno. Cedeno loves to get into those fast starts, and his defensive efforts are best in the early parts of the season. If I have said this once on this blog, I have said it a million times, Cedeno producing in April is a huge reason why the Pirates perform in April, however once May comes and Cedeno declines, the team suffers greatly.
Weakness: I could go the easy route with his inability to grow mustaches, however let’s start with his approach at the plate. In a lineup where he hits right before the pitcher, his job is to get on base so that the pitcher can advance him into scoring position. Cedeno often looked overmatched and often times I would even confuse him for a pitcher because he just looked lost at the plate. Cedeno tried to take an opposite field approach around the halfway point of the season, but that did not work either. I may sound very tough on Cedeno, but that is because I see what he does before the game and he works hard. As a season ticket holder, I see him in batting practice, and he consistently hits home runs so that is why I can be hard, because I know that he can do better, I have seen it with my own eyes.
Weakness: Defense…. not much nice to say here either. Again, in April he was stellar and what comes to mind, is that Sunday game against the Reds last season, where he showed incredible range by fielding a ball and making a strong throw to first base and his body was carrying him over to third base and got the runner out. He is just a streaky fielder, and like Alvarez makes a lot of errors and at times just simple fundamental mistakes. When Cedeno came over in the trade that sent Jack Wilson to Seattle, we were told Cedeno is not Jack Wilson defensively but is fairly good defensively. The first part of that statement is definitely true, however the second remains to be seen.
Question: Will Cedeno still be in a Pirates uniform at the end of the season? This one is hard to say. I actually am a huge Pedro Ciriaco fan as I am sure you could tell in my post last week praising him. Cedeno is likely to get the nod on Opening Day, however I see him faring much like Aki Iwamura last season. I think Ciriaco is much more defensively sound and their bats are about the same, although I like Ciriaco’s a touch more. I think Ciriaco takes over the job a la Neil Walker and then accels. Cedeno is just a mess and is frustratingly inconsistent and his play has more questions than answers and that is never good. Honestly, he is not even a utility player, Ronny Cedeno is NOT a Major League player, let alone a starter.
Next Entry: Part 2- Second base/first base
I understand that this may seem like a Napoleon Dynamite or even a Pedro Alvarez reference, but that is not the case. The Pedro that I happen to be speaking of is Pedro Ciriaco.
This past September Ciriaco was made a September call-up and management never gave him a chance. He never really got a chance to start and show off some of his glove work. His bat in that small quality looked impressive as he hit .333.
This Spring, Ciriaco has been given ample opportunity at shortstop and has rewarded the Pirates hitting over .350 before today’s “B” game that he was scheduled to be in. Manager Clint Hurdle seems impressed by Ciriaco and honestly, why wouldn’t you be?
Ciriaco has to be considered a front runner as Rule-5 pick Josh Rodriguez does not look to make the team. Ciriaco can play the infield minus first base and is dabbling in some outfield and can prove his worth even further.
It also helps Pedro’s case that Ronny Cedeno, who does his best work in the earlier part of the season was hitting .217 as of Sunday although he has brought that up since then. Cedeno is too streaky for me and much like Andy LaRoche is good in April, no more and no less.
Ciriaco was given to the Pirates by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the trade that sent Chris Snyder here as well. Pedro was rated the Diamondback’s best defensive prospect, so the offense is a strike extra, no pun intended.
If this Pedro does not make the roster come Opening Day, then something is truly wrong with this team. I understand what Garrett Atkins and Josh Fields can do, but at this moment the way that the roster is, Ciriaco is the way to go.
Pitcher with the most to prove:
1. Ross Ohlendorf- Ohlendorf is a great guy, but he only had one win last year. He pitched quite well last season but never received any run support. This year he got a huge raise in $2.1 million and he will have to pitch well and stay healthy.
2. Kevin Correia- Correia pitched himself out of the San Diego Padres rotation while they were in the middle of the playoff race. Correia pitched with a heavy heart as his brother passed away and this season will have to prove that the Pirates made a smart decision in signing him. Thus far, it has not looked like a great investment as he has looked overmatched in Spring Training, but only time will tell.
3. Charlie Morton- Morton is expected to be the team’s fifth starter, and if he pitches the way he did early last year, then the team will struggle mightily. Morton has shown that he has been capable of pitching well, bouncing back from an Andrew Jones home run earlier this week and then calming down to take down the Yankees. If Morton can control his emotions and his pitching, then it could very well inspire his teammates.
4. Joel Hanrahan- Hanrahan has emerged as the closer, but he has to prove to management that he can handle the job. He was traded from the Washington Nationals due to his inability to close games. He “shared” closing duties last year with Evan Meek, although he closed almost all of the games. He blew a few games and thus I am concerned that he cannot finish the job.
Winner: Charlie Morton
Morton showed a lot of promise as a September call-up and even further by his willingness to go to the Dominican Winter League to work on his makeup. I think this season could be the season Pirates management expected from Morton in 2009 but if he does not succeed, then the Pirates may lose their patience with him.
Hitter with the most to prove:
1. Matt Diaz- Diaz was signed during the off-season and will be splitting time in right field with Garrett Jones. This experiment happened before when the Pirates got Lastings Milledge. Milledge like Diaz said the right things, but ultimately underachieved. At this very moment, Diaz is hitting .308 this Spring and will have to perform well.
2. Jose Tabata- Tabata came up and at least in my opinion underachieved. I expected so much and his playing of left field was not great and only had speed. This off-season he has clearly bulked up and hopefully will have a much better season. He is in the Pirates future plans, but this season could be an indicator to how he does offensively.
3. Pedro Alvarez- Alvarez was rumored to gain weight this off-season in what was considered the biggest no-big deal story of the Pirates off-season. Pedro is being compared to Adam Dunn and will need to rack up the home runs and have moments like that walk-off home run in Colorado. He a huge part to the Pirates offense so if he fails, so does this team.
4. Ronny Cedeno- Cedeno is an average defender and a below average hitter. He is hitting .217 this Spring and is only starting because there is no one who can replace him, although Pedro Ciriaco is having a nice spring. Cedeno needs to have a good season, or else there will not be any real reason to keep him in the lineup.
Winner: Matt Diaz
Cedeno is right up there but Diaz is going to be a big part of the offense especially since we could always use help hitting southpaws.
Finally here are my thoughts for 2011 season predictions.
Team MVP: Andrew McCutchen
Cutch is the best all-around player on this team and should put up similar numbers to last season.
Ryan Doumit will be released and not traded.
Paul Maholm will be traded to the New York Yankees and either Matt Diaz or Garrett Jones will be traded.
Pirates will have another winning April and will once again fall apart in May
Charlie Morton will have the most wins on the staff followed by Ross Ohlendorf, although no starter will have double digit wins
Jeff Karstens will somehow get back into the starting rotation
Brad Lincoln will come up to the big club and perform well
Rudy Owens will struggle when he comes up a la Brad Lincoln. He will be Brad Lincoln 2.0
Chris Snyder will continue the catching curse and he will get injured and Dusty Brown and Jason Jaramillo will platoon a la Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz from a couple seasons ago.
Pirates will steal bases left and right… and will largely be successful
Cutch will be the Pirates lone All-Star this season
It will be the Pirates hitting that sets them back as Ray Searage will do a good job as Pirates pitching coach
The Pirates will have a 42-39 record at home and thus will have road issues once again.
This is the second time I am writing this recap, so if I am missing something I apologize. I worked very hard on this entry the first time and then lost it all because I did not copy it incase something happened. Sure enough, the following page said that the internet could not display the page, so I am starting this entry from scratch again.
I went to PirateFest with my friend Colston. Because I feared that the line would be long, I had Colston drop me off as he had to pick up his mother. I arrived at PirateFest at 3:45 all smiles and ready for the 4:00 start time.
I did not expect the line to be as long as it was, but I did not expect 3,500 people (up 1,500 from last year’s Friday PirateFest) to show up on Friday for two reasons. The main reason was that it was season ticket friday, and the Pirates had limited the event to their biggest fans, their season ticket holders. There also was a Steelers rally which I thought would drag some Pirate fans away. These fans truly were the best of the best.
The 15 minute wait was seemingly endless, as I could not wait to get in there, as I was all the way at the back of the roped area, with a lot more people behind me. There were a few familiar faces that I saw in line though that passed the time a lot quicker. One of them was Matt Peaslee. Matt and I have had Facebook conversations and back and forth tweets and he like me has aspirations in the field of journalism. He also has a Pirates related MLBlog which you can follow here: http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com.
Finally, I saw that the gates had opened to PirateFest and the line was moving. As I went in, I passed a Pirates arch which was over where my ticket was taken. I went in and immediately received a bag with a PirateFest program, a nice pocket schedule and a 2011 Pirates calendar very similar to the one they gave away a couple of seasons ago.
When I went in, I immediately went into the MVP Zone where after checking in, I got into the surprisingly short autograph line where Garrett Jones and new Pirate Kevin Correia were signing. I had them both sign my program. I was surprised that people were not having Correia sign things. I was really looking forward to meeting him and that would have upset me if people did not want my autograph. I welcomed Kevin to Pittsburgh and he seemed to appreciate it. Garrett as usual was rather friendly and he always has been interactive with the fans.
I then caught up with Colston and we went right across from the MVP Zone to the West Penn Allegheny Health System booth where we could throw a pitch as fast as we could. The radar gun was inaccurate though as the distance was not the proper distance and although my arm was rusty and I had not hit a gym in a month or so, there was no way that I threw only 36 miles per hour. Colston did worse than I did and he threw it sidearm, but the shameful damage was done.
We then decided to walk around and see what all would be at PirateFest this year.
We quickly saw the main PirateFest stage where it was set up for the Pittsburgh Pirates version of Minute to Win It.
We saw the usual games such as dart toss, chuck-a-luck and bean bag toss. The Minor League teams also all had booths as well to promote their teams. There also was the Pirates booth where you could show your Pirates pride in a video. It was a clever idea because when you entered your information you could spread the video over Facebook, Twitter and more. Mine for some reason did not work, but I saw others post videos on Facebook that looked great. Finally, there was a booth which if you entered your information, you received a card and this card could be shown at the Pirates Prize Wheels located throughout PNC Park and you could just show the card instead of filling out endless pieces of paper. You also were entered to win Pirates signed baseballs, jerseys and more.
We then passed the Root Sports booth. Root Sports will take over what is now known as FSN and that switch will take place on April 1, just in time for the Pirates first game against the Chicago Cubs. I recorded my highlight there, which I have since posted to Facebook. The teleprompter was a little slow. When I was done, I collected a Root Sports bag, to hold my stuff and moved on.
We were walking back to the PirateFest stage when we stumbled across the radio booth and Joe Bendel of ESPN 970 AM. He had Andrew McCutchen on as a guest and we lined up to try and get a picture. A ballhawk and his father then reunited and we both talked about how excited we were for the upcoming season. With that, the interview was over and Pirates people whisked McCutchen away before anyone could do anything. I managed to get a handshake before he left. For those of you who must know, his hand was a little sweaty,
Before we took our seats, we visited the PirateFest stage where I saw my buddy Joe Klimchak. We had a nice handshake and I gave him a copy of the recent college newspaper where my article was in there.
We then took our seats at the Minute to Win It stage and started to see failure in the first two contestants. The first was a seven-year-old kid, and he could not make it past the first contest which was to suck an M&M in a straw and transport it to the other side. Initially it was five M&M’s but because of his struggles, they switched it to one. He failed both times and got a hat.
The second contestant wreaked of perfume and she failed the first time and she won the second time. She failed the next challenge though and she won a hat.
The last contestant faced the pressure of Joe who said that if he failed, he would pick somebody that he knew would make it a few rounds.
The last contestant’s name was Bob and he looked like he was in his mid 50’s and kind of looked like Santa Claus. He had his yellow Pirates Clemente jersey and his figure was Santa-esque and he had a mustache which rivaled Ray Searage. He won the first couple of rounds, and in fact, made it all the way to the final challenge.
The highlight of the game was the Junk in the Trunk challenge where Bob had a tissue box on his behind with mini balls in the tissue box. He had to dance to get the balls out and it was quite funny as he did not dance that gracefully. Still, he won the game and won some fans in the audience.
He risked all of the prizes he had earned to take part in the last challenge which was to keep three balloons up in the air for a minute. He had two chances to do this, as he never did lose before that, however he lost both times. He was barely able to hold all three balloons in his arms, and that was a bad sign. He did win four club seats though, and he might have won a hat too, I am not sure.
I then told Colston that I was going to walk around, and sure enough I ran into a ton of people and had a ton of conversations. It was nice to converse with the people.
At that point, the live taping of Inside Pirates Baseball was about to begin, and I had my camera ready as I was taking a lot of pictures of the goings on. I was going to take a picture of Stan Savran prepping to do the show, but without saying a word, Stan actually turned around and smiled. I knew that this was going to be fun.
As the show started, Rob King came in, as he prepared to do the intro with Stan. At the start of the show, I was the lone person in the crowd and I was right behind Stan. A lot of people later told me that they saw me, and I had recorded the episode, so I was excited to see the result.
As Rob and Stan were doing their intro, a familiar face started to appear, it was Evan Meek. I slowly walked over to him and we proceeded to have a quick conversation. He said to me,” Hey Zac, Squirrel Hill, right?” We continued our conversation as he went for the pound, and it was great, but soon after he told me that he had to go sign autographs with Jose Tabata in the MVP Zone. We parted ways, and I was more excited than ever. In fact, it was cool to see the fans that started to surround me and give me surprised looks. They seemed shocked that I knew Evan and the looks on their faces were priceless.
After that, Stan revealed who would be on the show and shortly after I saw Chairman of the Board Bob Nutting. I decided to pose for a picture with him. The picture ended up failing though as someone called his name at the last second and he did not look into the camera. We had to do a second shot, and that one went a lot better.
I also got to meet Manager Clint Hurdle for the first time. He was very nice to all of the fans, and I was very impressed by the things he said throughout the night. I posed for a picture with him as well and we parted ways with a handshake.
I stayed at the Inside Pirates Baseball show for a good 30 minutes before I went back over to the PirateFest stage. It was at this point where my back gave out because of the hours of standing.
I remained standing for Ask Pirates Management, as the area was crowded and soon after ran into Colin Dunlap the new Pirates beat writer. I found out that we shared many of the same concepts and beliefs about the Pirates. We both are optimistic about the future and think that Ronny Cedeno does not belong in the big leagues. We parted ways, as he was transcribing some of the Q&A alongside of Jen Langosch. We would meet again later in the day as he was getting ready to leave, and I believe that our paths will cross again soon.
I then sat back down for the regular Q&A with all of the Pirates players (sans Jeff Karstens, Jose Tabata and James McDonald) and coaches. One little kid asked Andrew McCutchen for his autograph and McCutchen did sign for him, although soon after jealous others asked McCutchen for his autograph and he said “we’ll see” (he left immediately after).
The weirdest question of the night was directed towards Garrett Jones. A man asked that of Jones, “Hypothetically if my daughter was to marry you (Jones has a girlfriend), which player on the team would be your best man?” After some laughter from the audience and some puases from Jones, the answer turned out to be Steve Pearce. The questioner then thanked Jones who whispered the word “awkward” into the mic. Also worth noting is that Neil Walker will use fellow Pittsburgh native Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” when he steps up to bat this season.
After Q&A was over, I got to redeem the free meal that I received upon entry at PirateFest and got myself a hot dog, Cracker Jack and some lemonade.
When I came back, I ran into Randy Page, better known as “Big Yellow” and we exchanged a handshake and a quick conversation. He ended the conversation, as he was going over to PirateFest field to partake in the Perogie Eating Competition, which he won. We caught up at the end of PirateFest where he told me about the win.
I sat down and watched Deal or No Deal and saw Evan Meek and Garrett Jones as bankers. By the second game, they started going easier on the contestants. Again the prize was the 20 game season ticket plan, which was useless as we all were season ticket holders.
The last contestant won the big prize and everyone was happy for her as she was an older lady and walk using a walker. She was helped up and down the stage by Meek and Bob Walk, the announcer of the game.
With that, all of the stage games were over and things were wrapping up for PirateFest. A lot of the season ticket holders had already left, and the MVP Zone no longer was doing autographs, so kids were playing Wii Sports, while others played pool and relaxed on the chairs.
My father was about ready to pick me up, and I was bundled up ready to go outside, but at the last minute took a picture with President Frank Coonelly before I left.
I had a lot of fun at Friday’s PirateFest and would be back Sunday for much more. My next post actually will be my Super Bowl Prediction and then I will make a post for Sunday’s PirateFest.
As of today, here is the depth chart for the shortstop position:
1. Ronny Cedeno
2. Josh Rodriguez
3. Pedro Ciriaco
Unfortunately for the Pirates, they are very thin at the shortstop position. Essentially by defauly, Cedeno will be the new shortstop. I along with any other sensable Pirates fan know that Cedeno has no reason to be the team’s starting shortstop. Cedeno somehow managed to hit 8 home runs in his 136 games played. Cedeno seemed to get more and more tired as the season went on, and even worse, he played this off-season for a Venezuelan Fall League and thus I am concerned about how he will hold up this season. He also was a liability in the field committing 18 errors last season. His range factor was also down last season. In his 423 career games played at the shortstop position, he has made 56 errors. While that stat may be a little reassuring, his defense slipped a little last season and while he made a few nice plays, they often were overshadowed. Cedeno essentially is a great bench player, but should not be a starter for any team, even if it is for the Pirates.
I went over the Rodriguez matters yesterday, as he is the team’s Rule-5 Pick. He was signed to provide some “competition” for Cedeno. I still have no idea why the Pirates have not gone after a shortstop as of late, but essentially Rodriguez will be the team’s starter if Cedeno gets injured (he is quite injury prone) or does not perform up to par. While that may be a scary thought, nothing could be as scary as Cedeno being the Pirates starting shortstop.
Pedro Ciriaco was a part of the deal that sent Chris Snyder to Pittsburgh and Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church and D.J. Carrasco to Arizona. He was cited as the fastest guy in the Diamondbacks Minor League system which made me a little excited. Fan were supposed to see what he had to offer, as he was a September call up. Things got really exciting when he got hits in his first two at-bats. With Cedeno struggling, many wanted Ciriaco to start to see what he had to offer, but Pirates Management refused and even in the same breath said that they weren’t just happy with Cedeno’s play, but that he was a “lock” to start at the position for the 2011 team. The team never allowed Ciriaco to start a game, and thus he was pretty much a waste of a call-up. In his next two at-bats, he struck out before getting a hit in the second to last game of the season against the Florida Marlins. He got an at-bat on the last game of the season, striking out again. Essentially, Ciriaco was 3 for 6 with 3 strikeouts, which although it was an extremely small sample size, was not that impressive.
The Minor Leagues do not offer much promise at this moment as Chase D’Arnaud is not ready for the Majors quite yet. It is obvious that the shortstop position is our weakest position both offensively and defensively.
I am very surprised at the team’s approach to this position thus far in the off-season. I understand that the team is short on money, but they were happy to blow their money on two (perhaps even three) minor leaguers that essentially serve the same purpose (Josh Fields, Garrett Atkins and Corey Wimberly) and Lyle Overbay. It seemed like they spent their money on signing guys to seemingly show Ryan Doumit the door and seemingly ignore the shortstop position.
If the Pirates decide to spend some money, they cannot ignore their shortstop position, as that and a left-handed reliever are their two biggest needs. Here are the shortstops still in the free agency market and my quick thoughts on them all.
Orlando Cabrera (36) – Type B, not offered arb: Cabrera was briefly connected with the Pirates this off-season, but the rumors were quickly denied. Cabrera is a defensive shortstop, which would benefit this team, but I believe that Cedeno has better power numbers. He and Ojeda are the oldest shortstop candidates, and Cabrera likely would command too much money anyways.
Bobby Crosby (31)- I actually would like to see the team bring Crosby back. He had a brief stint here, and never really had a chance with Arizona, and we could probably sign him cheaply. Crosby at least provides some depth for the team, and at 31 still could play an active role with this team.
Cristian Guzman (33)- Would be a great fit, and I believe would start over Cedeno, but likely will ask for too much money. Plus he is an old 33.
Jerry Hairston Jr. (35)- He seems to be older than 35, and I think he would ask for too much money.
Julio Lugo (35)- Not worth it at all. He would likely command too much money anyways.
Augie Ojeda (36)- Not a good fit at all.
Nick Punto (33)- Would be a better signing at least defensively, but would probably ask for too much.
Edgar Renteria (34)- He wouldn’t sign with us anyways. Probably will sign with San Fransisco.
Here is my predictions for the depth chart come April 1 (no surprises here):
1. Ronny Cedeno
2. Josh Rodriguez
3. Pedro Ciriaco
Tomorrow I will write about the much more exciting and eventful third base position.